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‘We do not yet have effective regulatory body for the practice of management consultancy’

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Ije Jidenma


Dr Ije Jidenma is an accomplished Management Consultant and Professional. She holds a PhD degree in Psychology with specialisation in Psychometrics from University of Lagos. She is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Leading Edge Consulting and has consulted widely for organisations across diverse sectors of the Nigerian economy and internationally too. She also serves as the Managing Partner of IRC (Nigeria) a member firm of the IRC Global Executive Search Partnership, the fastest growing search alliance with footprints in over 90 cities across six continents. Her impressive and rich post-graduation experience garnered over more than 30 years, traverses academia, ‘hands on’ industry experience and consulting. She had worked in operational capacities as a Training & Development Officer with the Industrial Training Fund and Senior Consultant with Price Waterhouse (now PwC) and also in executive capacities as a Senior Manager/Head of Human Resources and Head of Strategic Planning of Merchant Bank of Africa. She was appointed a Senior Lecturer by ESUT Business School and she taught Organizational Behaviour to MBA students and helped berth the Human Resources Management programme of the school. She has led various Joint-Venture initiatives with Associates from various parts of the world such as South Africa and United Kingdom. Dr Jidenma has grown to be a trusted and dependable Board Advisor and has led Board-level engagements and interventions  in areas such as Board Retreats, Board Executive Search & Selection, Board Evaluation, Board Compensation Consultancy & Advisory and Corporate Governance.
 
Dr Jidenma’s strong belief in continuous learning, saw her attend several Executive and Board-level  development programmes across the world on Risk Management, Board Finance, Corporate Governance, Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability etc in such world acclaimed centres such as Harvard Business School, Kellogg School of Management, Lagos Business School, I.ESE Business School, Cranfield School of Management etc.  She is an alumnus of Lagos Business School Chief Executive Programme (CEP) and the Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labour Relations USA. She is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, (CIPM) and Institute of Directors of Nigeria where she serves on its Governing Council as well as its First Vice President. She is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management Consultants (NIMC) and an Honorary Senior Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.  Dr Jidenma is a Director of the Nigerian South African Chamber and serves on the Governing Council of the Nigerian British Chamber of Commerce. The multiple award-winning management consultant takes GuardianWoman into her professional world as she x-rays the HR Profession in the country, its challenges and how it can work well for young women in the profession.

For how long have you been consulting?I have been involved in Consulting for three decades. My involvement commenced when as a Training & Development Officer with the Industrial Training Fund, I rendered advisory and consultancy services to companies by encouraging them to train their staff, assisting them get reimbursed for training, systematically identifying their training needs, as well as facilitating some courses developed by the Fund such as the “Train the Trainers” course. I subsequently joined Price Waterhouse (now PwC) where I consulted largely in the Human Resources and Organisational Development areas. As a Consultant, I helped in the search and selection of key positions in varied organizations across functions and sectors of the economy. I also served in multidisciplinary teams that restructured organizations and re-positioned them for impact. I had a break from Consulting to get hands-on experience in a Merchant Bank as the Head of the Human Resources Department, which included the responsibility for local and offshore training. I also had a stint as the Head of Strategic Planning. Thereafter, I moved back to Consulting and founded Leading Edge Consulting in the late nineties. The firm assisted a lot of banks and multinational organizations in graduate- level recruitment and management trainee schemes, engaged in Joint Venture schemes particularly in the area of Training in strategic Nigerian cities such as Lagos, Abuja and Port- Harcourt. For instance together with PE Corporate Services South Africa, we ran well-structured programmes in “Situational Leadership” for executives. We also pioneered the certification of Human Resources Managers in Occupational Testing with The Psychological Corporation then oldest publisher of tests for Government, Education and Industry. At Leading Edge Consulting, I have led internationally funded projects by bodies like the World Bank , DFID, etc . We have also worked for international developmental organizations and multilateral institutions. Beyond Human Resources engagements, I do lead Board Evaluation projects. I am duly certified to do so by the IFC.

Currently, I serve as the Managing Partner of IRC (Nigeria) a retained Executive Search firm and a member of the IRC Global Executive Search Partnership, which has offices in 90 cities across six continents. We contribute to the society by advancing thought leadership through the IRC Institute .We promote diversity, multicultural engagements as well as leadership. We are also the Master Partner for the GC Index in Nigeria & West Africa. The Game Changing Index is an organometric that greatly helps organisation to identify its ‘ Game Changers’ at individual, team and organisational levels. In a disruptive world, it is quite revolutionary in its utility.

Kindly explain what management consultancy is all about.Management Consultancy is the practice of assisting organisations to improve their performance or add value to their business. Sometimes organisations use the services of management consultants because they need independent and objective opinion. At other times, they benefit from specialised services that management consultants offer, gaining from their expertise and varied experience in a cost-effective manner.

Management consultancy must have evolved from the 80’s when you started practicing, kindly feed us in on how it was then, and now.
I would say that the practice of Management Consultancy has grown in Nigeria over the years in terms of scope and size. However, the integrity which the practice had been greatly associated with in the 80’s seems to have suffered some set- back just like most things in Nigeria. For instance its practice was the hallmark of professionalism. Consultants were independent minded and well sought out where political undercurrents held sway. Consultants were highly respected not only for their expertise, but also for their transparency and independence . There have been significant growth in the awareness of companies about the services of management consultants and their usage. However, it seems to have become an “all- comers game” due to the low entry barrier.

. Has your profession also been hit by the unemployment trend in the market?
Management Consultancy as an occupation generally thrives in austere times when organisations are seeking unique survival strategies. The value proposition or what a consultant has to offer will determine his or her employability. However, there is no doubt that unemployment trend is hitting the average management consultant who cannot add much value, given the limited resources organisations and the competing demands for them.

Getting the right skills set has always been a challenge, what is your take on the report that Nigerian youths/graduates are unemployable?
Yes, getting the right skills that the industry needs has always been a challenge because the curricula ran by most of our universities were not deliberately tailored to meet the requirements of the market place. This has even been worsened with the quantum change in work-place requirements heralded by technological advancements. However, many big organizations arrange specially fashioned training programmes aimed at giving the trainees fundamental skills and foundational knowledge and even attitudes they need to function well. These schemes enhance the employability of these youths. Some non for profit organizations such as Leap Africa, Fate Foundation, After School Graduate Development Centre etc strive to equip the youth with the needed skills set as well as give them the required confidence, orientation and ethical leaning. Yet, all these initiatives largely take place in major cities. Unfortunately, the majority of our youth are left out, as they do not have access to these laudable schemes. They therefore remain “unemployable,” but in the strict sense, no human being can be unemployable as what is needed is to bridge the existing gaps in their knowledge, skills and attitude.

What are the highs and lows of the profession?
Management Consultancy can be quite exciting as each engagement is different from the other. As we work for different clients, we encounter challenges that demand different problem solving approaches and techniques. It also affords you the opportunity to learn as well as add value. By so doing, you gain intrinsic satisfaction and also grow as a person.

The lows of the profession include the frustrations that come with lost bids especially if you have devoted the necessary resources in terms of time and expert knowledge to do so. Unethical practices by the Executives of some organisations can also be discouraging. Even though it may seem that management consultancy can be likened to an operation as is obtainable in manufacturing or construction, a lot more is demanded and in truth most Consultants even at their peak, still function as Managers and Producers. This assertion was even validated at a programme on Leading Professional Service Firms, which I attended at the Harvard Business School several years ago.

In what way have you helped in training a younger generation of consultants? What is your advice for young HR professionals who want to grow in their career?
We have tried in our own modest way in training younger Consultants in the Consultancy Methodology and also in mentoring them. We have also through our different training programmes helped HR professionals to develop themselves especially in being strategic as human beings are the most valuable resource and you can only get outcomes based on the quality of people you deploy, technology notwithstanding. Several Consultants that passed through our firm are now occupying key positions in different industries and walks of life. One has become a Professor in a leading University, another a Director of Learning & Development in an umbrella organisation for the organized private sector, directors in Leading international Consulting firms etc. Wherever they go to, they not only take with them the expertise and methods of solving problems, but also our values and ethical culture which they imbibed.

My advice for HR Professionals is to maintain their ethical standing in order to engender trust, avoid undue peer influence and stick to professionalism (doing the right things),which will eventually pay off. They should not cut corners. Some have stayed back, improved on their education and are benefitting from our learning and mentoring schemes.

Is the nation ripe for people to work part-time or from home as obtains in other climes, especially women who are still raising children?
Yes, I do believe that the nation is ripe to address multi – situational needs of people for optimal effect. Individual differences dictate that while some people are most productive during the day, others are at night. Also, there are many highly-talented people who can contribute to productivity at their own convenience. If you look at the high traffic congestion in Lagos State, for instance, you will realise that a significant proportion of time is wasted in traffic. This is time that could have been meaningfully employed. However, the lack of basic infrastructure such as continuous power supply may militate against this as work may suffer where the necessary amenities are lacking. Also, Internet connectivity is not yet optimal to facilitate work from home. Where the conditions are right, women are bound to benefit greatly from this, as it would give them the much-needed flexibility to juggle their home and office needs. Moreover, the emerging trend is to see the individual as a continuous whole and break down the barrier created between the different facets such as home and work.

As a board member of many companies, what does it really take for a woman to sit at the table and make her voice heard?
I believe that a woman is a human being just as a man. The gender differences, as it pertains to board membership, has nothing to do with physical differences such as muscular built, height or weight. Seriously, women are endowed with the intellectual endowments required at Board level to attend to strategic issues. This means that the woman, like the men, must ensure that she works hard and makes the necessary preparations that would enable her to make meaningful and effective contributions .In fact, this is the age of empathy, listening skills and some of the so-called feminine qualities that actually hold the ace in relationship building which is also important in board dynamics and effectiveness. Of course, I am aware of the so-called “old boys” groupings by men, which may make the informal networks even stronger than the formal. For instance, the existence of the so-called “meeting- before-meeting. “ As a result of this, women should continue to encourage other qualified women to be at the table with them until such a time that it will no longer be a novelty but that of human beings with different but equally valuable perspectives to contribute, sitting at the same table. I am also aware of women’s qualitative contributions being brushed aside sometimes until a male re-echoes or amplifies it but we must not be deterred. With inner confidence, one’s contributions will eventually come to the fore especially when it is validated by occurrences.

Tell us about the latest activities of the Goddy Jidenma Foundation that you set up in memory of your husband Our flagship event, which is our bi- annual Public Lecture, comes on November 26 this year. The Lecture which theme is centered on “Insecurity, Poverty and Governance, will be delivered by the well-known Kenyan Public Intellectual, Prof PLO Lumumba. Our lecture series usually derive its topics from burning issues of contemporary relevance in Nigeria in particular and Africa, generally. Past Distinguished Lecturers include Prof Ben Nwabueze, Prof Ali Mazrui, Prof Isawa Elaigwu , Prof Pat Utomi and Prof Kingsley Moghalu. These are public intellectuals and thought leaders in their own rights.

In this era where everyone claims to be a management consultant, kindly advise on how everything can be regulated to identify the quacks from the real professionals?
I must confess that we do not yet have an effective regulatory body for the practice of management consultancy. Also, you can see that management consultancy is more of an occupation than a profession. Its scope is very broad indeed and the only defining link is the methodology. As a result, it seems that anybody that does not have a job or loses his or her job labels him or herself a Consultant. A way of elevating the occupation may be by training interested and qualified people on Consultancy Methodology. I plan to run low fee or subsidised programmes in this area as part of my contribution to the society.

What is your advice for young women who want to grow their profession in HR?
I have noticed that many young women are attracted to the HR profession. I believe the nurturing attribute that women are known for, has made them to gravitate around HR. My advice for them is to also ensure that they are equipped to understand the business, which is the mileu in which they practice their HR management in order for them to grow to the peak where Strategic HR is practiced. In fact HR is so important to the success of an organisation that the profession has been penciled to be the future gateway to being the CEO of a company just as Finance was, then Marketing etc.

With your busy schedule, how do you find time to relax?
My relaxation is somewhat inbuilt in my work. The conferences I attend take me to different lands. Most are structured to have sightseeing as part of them. As a result they tend to have a renewal and retooling effect on me.

Is there any quotation that you live by?
This is not just a quotation. It is a philosophy of life captured in the “Desiderata “ It sums up man’s existence on earth and the best attitude or outlook to have. I do totally agree with it. It is very long indeed to be quoted here. It is actually my family’s adopted philosophy. Part of it is set out below:

“ Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” “As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.” “Speak your truth quietly and clearly; even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.” “Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit.” “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”


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